Joan Shea’s plan for St. George’s–Stephenville East in 2013 is to continue what the provincial government has been doing and continue building in the right direction.
“If there are needs for medical equipment and roads and infrastructure, we will keep moving that ahead,” said Ms. Shea, MHA for the district and minister of Advanced Education and Skills.
“I temper that with the fact that we’re going to have a very difficult year or two from a budget perspective. It doesn’t mean our priorities change, it just means that things may not get done as quickly as we’d like to see them done.”
From a healthcare perspective, Ms. Shea said the past year saw a $1.1 million infusion for upgrades to the Sir Thomas Roddick Hospital and the Bay St. George Long Term Care Centre.
She said the opening of the Searston Gut Bridge in the Codroy Valley this fall was one of several bridge upgrades in the district over the last few years.
“There’s ongoing work to get the Gut Bridge in Stephenville Crossing upgraded as well,” she said, noting that work on this bridge should be completed later this year.
Upgrades to the provincial highway leading to Flat Bay and St. Teresa’s was among the roadwork undertaken in 2012.
“The Hansen Highway remains a priority,” she added. “Again, I’d like to see that in this year’s budget, but I can’t say what’s in the budget because it’s going to depend on where we are financially and how much we’re putting into roadwork.”
Ms. Shea said firefighting infrastructure upgrades are important for the provincial government.
“There’s planning underway for a new municipal building that will house the new fire truck in Bay St. George South. We’re also in the process of designing a new fire station for St. George’s – and there was a new pumper truck for Stephenville (in 2012).”
She noted the province put almost a million dollars towards the Regional Aquatic Centre in Stephenville, and $15,000 for the Black Duck Siding community centre.
“The other thing that’s ongoing in the district from last year and carrying into this year is the renovation being done at St. Michael’s Elementary in Stephenville Crossing. That’s going to be well over a million dollars when it’s completed.”
When asked about College of the North Atlantic headquarters, she indicated it would be staying put in Stephenville.
“It is where it is, we’re very pleased with that and it’s a non-issue really,” she said.
Ms. Shea said she the opening of a salmon smolt hatchery in Stephenville last year is an indicator of a positive economy in her district.
“We’re going to see Emera investing in the area for their part in the Muskrat Falls development – and we’re also going to see the government refurbish the paper shed at the former Abitibi paper shed.”
She said an engineering assessment is currently underway to see what work needs to be done with the paper shed to bring it up to being a facility that can be used for fabrication.
While cuts to the Communities in Schools program raised the ire of some residents in 2012, Ms. Shea says overall job creation funding for the district didn’t decrease.
“Although one area didn’t get the money, we certainly want to make sure that we look at other Job Creation Projects,” she said. “There are competing demands and agencies that get money from that. Just because they didn’t get it, it doesn’t mean there’s any less money in the district for Job Creation Projects.”
Ms. Shea said an interesting development in 2012 was the first election for the Qalipu First Nations Band.
“To see Brendan Sheppard stay on as chief and to see a number of our local people serve on that new band is exciting,” she said.
“I think it’s a real cultural awakening for us, and I’d like, as the MHA and as a minister, to have really positive working relationships because I think our goals are very similar. I think that having the Qalipu Nation in the area can only be seen as a benefit for everyone.”